when the gales of November come early (kishmet) wrote,
when the gales of November come early
kishmet

Fic: Tangles + dragon pimping (not like THAT!)

As a matter of personal opinion, do any of you think that anyone would be interested in buying/commissioning beaded dragons? I'm trying to make a bit of money in order to send myself to Anime Expo next year, you see, and so I've created scaleskish in order to promote and sell beaded dragons and other fantasy creatures. Even if I don't get any online orders, of course, I think I'm going to get an Artists' Alley booth at Anime Central 2008 and take commissions there as well. Wish me luck?

And, because it seems appropriate in the context of this post, a fic!

Tangles, by kishmet. Petshop of Horrors, Leon/D, PG-13, 7,500 words. Written for slashfest. If you've never read the Petshop of Horrors manga or watched the anime, you're missing out, with the manga especially. D is an extremely Fuji-esque kami (god/spirit) who runs a very interesting petshop, and Leon is a smoking, swearing, but good-hearted detective determined to find D guilty of something. There are a lot of sub-plots, with a different "episode" in every chapter, but there's a barely-subtextual slashy plot line running through the whole thing. Try it! (If it helps to encourage you, Telanu [yes, that Telanu] has written many brilliant fics for the series.)



“I’ll be bringing over a surprise tomorrow.”

Leon said it off-handedly, as though whatever it was didn’t matter at all, but D could detect the note of excitement in Leon’s tone. D smiled. “I’m sure I’ll enjoy whatever you bring, my dear Detective.”

“Yeah, yeah.” But Leon sounded pleased as he lounged on the couch watching Chris play with Pon-chan. Leon, D noted with some amusement, kept his feet off of the ground in anticipation of another totetsu attack.

At the time D assumed (or perhaps, naively, hoped) that Leon meant that he’d be bringing more of those exquisite gourmet chocolates. His assumption was only partly correct.

***

The sun was shining, the sky was blue and cloudless, the birds were singing, and Leon Orcot was in a great mood.

Well, the sky wasn’t exactly cloudless. There were a couple gray ones along the horizon and some puffy white ones overhead, but that was it, and those few clouds didn’t do much to spoil the effect. He practically waltzed to the door of the petshop, knocking quietly and politely (for him, anyway) and calling, “Hey, D! Answer the door, would you?” Okay, so maybe being in such a great mood made him impatient to share said great mood with one of the people who was least likely to think that Leon deserved to be in a great mood in the first place.

Leon wasn’t even going to question his own train of thought on that one.

The door swung open, and Count D stood in the entryway to the petshop. Leon barely even noticed today’s dress (blue, with a peacock all across it, and dammit, he had noticed after all), he was so caught up in his current and previously unexpected excitement. “Hey, D-” he began.

“Why Detective Orcot,” said D, with that little smile of his that wasn’t exactly welcoming, but wasn’t exactly… well… Leon wasn’t sure what it was. Familiar, maybe, even though it belonged to a smug bastard who dragged Leon into all sorts of dangerous situations and was probably the head of the Chinese Mafia. “And what have you come to arrest me for today?”

Leon grinned. “Nah, this is more of a social call.” He held out the box of chocolates he’d bought on the way over. “For you.”

D’s eyes lit up, and he practically snatched the box from Leon’s hands, cradling it like a baby. “My dear detective! Thank you ever so much.”

“You’re welcome,” said Leon, his grin widening. “But that’s not exactly the surprise I meant. Hey, Cynthia. Meet Count D.”

Even though Clara had been standing there the whole time, it was as though D only just noticed her when Leon pointed her out. D’s smile slowly changed to something else. Leon couldn’t pinpoint that expression, either, though if he had to guess, he would have said… surprise, maybe? Puzzlement? No, that couldn’t be it, this was Count freaking D, for Christ’s sake. That bat-rabbit thing, on the other hand, wasn’t scolding Leon nearly as much as it usually did. It looked downright content, which normally would have made Leon suspicious, but in this case he decided to disregard the stupid thing.

“Pleased to meet you, Count,” said Cynthia, smiling earnestly. “Leon’s told me so much about you.”

“D, this is Cynthia Berkeley.” Leon knew he was beaming like an idiot, but he didn’t care. “My girlfriend.”

“Oh. I see.” For unknown reasons, D’s tone had gone from the usual, slightly teasing one he used on Leon these days to that distant, holier-than-thou tone he used with his customers. “It is my pleasure to meet you, Ms. Berkeley.”

Leon could swear he felt an aura of creepiness congealing around D. “So, you going to invite us in, or what?” Leon asked, even though he got the sudden feeling that going into the petshop might not be the brightest idea at the moment. He shook that one off; hell, if he was going to look at it that way, it was never the brightest idea to walk into the place.

“Ah. Yes, of course.” D bowed and stood aside, gesturing for them to come in with the hand that wasn’t holding the chocolates. Leon let Cynthia walk inside first and shot a look at D. Just watch D try to say he had no manners now. But D was looking at him almost speculatively, like he could look straight through Leon’s head, and Leon couldn’t possibly give him the grin he’d been planning for. “So, Ms. Berkeley,” D was saying. “How did you and Detective Orcot meet each other, if I may ask?”

“Oh, of course,” Cynthia replied, looking around at the petshop with an expression of wonder. Not shocking, that, given all the things that were always wandering around in there. Leon had gotten used to them (except that homicidal goat-tiger-thing, which seemed determined to rip his ankles to pieces whenever it encountered them), and so he didn’t usually notice much anymore. Today, though, Cynthia’s interest sparked his, and Leon counted four brightly-colored birds, a dog, something he couldn’t identify, and cats that moved around too much to be counted. “We met on the subway, actually.” Cynthia smiled shyly. “A man stole my purse and Leon chased him down for me. Then he insisted on treating me to dinner, and, well.”

“It was all downhill from there, right?” Leon said, finally managing that grin, prompting her to shake her head and laugh.

Bro!

A blond, vaguely kid-shaped blur hurtled at him from the other side of the room. Leon just had time to prepare himself before said blur collided with him. “Chris, hey!” He pulled his younger brother into a tight hug, and then ruffled his hair before releasing him.

Aw, bro, Chris complained, fixing his hair so that it was even messier. Following in the proud Orcot hair tradition, Leon thought proudly. Then Chris froze. Who’s that?

“What? Oh yeah. Chris, this is Cynthia. We’re, uh, dating, actually. And Cynthia, this is my younger brother Chris.” Leon still had an arm around Chris’ shoulders, and Chris was peering at Cynthia as though he wasn’t quite sure what to make of her yet.

“I’ve heard about you, too,” said Cynthia, smiling at Chris. Boy, thought Leon, her smile really was great. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Chris.” She held out her hand.

Chris hesitated and looked up at Leon for confirmation. Leon nodded. “Yeah, she’s fine. More than fine.” So Chris put his hand in Cynthia’s and they shook. Leon’s heart just about melted, or would have, if he hadn’t been a tough-as-nails street cop.

Leon looked around the room. “Hey, D, your crazy carnivorous goat isn’t around, is he?”

“I’m sure he’s somewhere in the petshop, Detective, if that’s what you’re asking.” D was still using that obnoxious voice that he used on customers, and Leon could have sworn that the incense in the store had gotten heavier since they’d gotten there. Cynthia didn’t seem to notice or mind, and neither did Chris, but it was starting to give Leon a headache.

“Well, as long as he’s not under the couch waiting to attack my feet, that’s okay with me.” Leon motioned for Cynthia to sit down before he did, yet another unusual display of gallantry, and then plopped down on the couch himself.

“Indeed. Well, Detective, I will put my chocolates away and then make tea for all of us. I’m sure that you’d like Chris and Ms. Berkeley to become better acquainted with each other.” D glided from the room with that faint rustle of silk that always accompanied his movements.

Leon wondered exactly what had happened to put D in a mood, and decided that he was not going to let D ruin the day. Nope. Not at all. He didn’t expect D to throw a party or something just because Leon had a girlfriend, anyway.

Would’ve been nice if D hadn’t been acting like a cold heartless prick, that was all.

***

A woman. D had no idea, frankly, where Leon could possibly have found a good woman who would have him. “One who’s never seen his apartment, most likely,” he said to himself, stirring too much sugar into Leon’s tea.

By his ear, Q-chan chirped, evidently pleased with himself. D glanced at Q-chan, but verbal communication with that particular pet was impossible, even for one such as himself. “You approve of the Detective’s new… companion?”

Q-chan flapped his wings and nodded his head. For D, Q-chan’s approval was generally enough; it meant, indirectly, that the subject in question had his grandfather’s approval as well.

This time D found himself discontent with Q-chan’s reply. “But what sort of woman would ever want such an uncivilized, impolite man with an incurable fondness for cigarettes, alcohol and pornography?” D asked himself, a rhetorical question if ever there was one. The sort of woman who would want a man like that was sitting in the next room, probably getting to know Chris while Leon beamed at them both with that unbearably idiotic expression he’d been wearing since he’d arrived.

D poured the tea absently. The liquid filled the first cup neatly to the top without spilling over.

Throughout D’s acquaintance with Leon, the detective had been interested in women. That much was clear from the hideous posters and magazines that had been scattered all over Leon’s bedroom. But Leon had never actively sought a woman during that time, or at least no woman who would have him. D was… unaccustomed, that was the word, unaccustomed to seeing Leon accompanied by a female.

A single drop from the second cup spilled over the brim and landed on D’s hand. He looked at it, startled, and Q-chan hovered and chirped, alarmed.

“It will be fine,” said D, unsure whether he was reassuring himself or Q-chan, and unsure whether everything would, in fact, be fine.

***

When D came back into the room, he was still wearing that holier-than-thou expression, practically glowing, for Chrissakes, or maybe that was just the backlighting from the window. Either way, Leon refused to look at D for long. He had his arm around Cynthia while Chris knelt on the floor in front of them, shyly showing off some pictures he’d drawn that day. Leon didn’t know who the heck that guy with horns was supposed to be, or the cute little girl, for that matter, but who cared? Chris had some real artistic talent, especially for a kid his age.

“Your tea,” said D, setting the tray on the table and smiling. “I do hope you enjoy it. It’s my personal blend.”

Chris made a face, apparently not a fan of tea despite all the time he spent in D’s company.

“As long as you didn’t put the whole damn sugar bowl in there, I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Leon picked up one cup and offered it to Cynthia, who took it and sipped at it. Then Leon picked up another cup for himself. He drank, and immediately started coughing. “What the-” he choked out. “How much sugar did you put in here?”

“It seems fine to me,” said Cynthia, concerned. She took another, experimental sip out of her own cup.

“Jesus!” Leon stared at his own cup, wondering if D had put so much sugar in his cup on purpose. No, because D would have had no way of knowing which cup Leon would take, or maybe he would, but that was getting into the realm of the batshit crazy again, so Leon ignored it.

“If you would like a new cup, Detective-” D began.

“Nah, this one’s fine,” said Leon, making an effort not to wince as he chugged the entire sugar-saturated cup just to get rid of the stuff. He had no guarantees that D would make the next cup any less sweet; knowing D, he’d probably make it even sweeter.

***

Leon and Cynthia didn’t stay nearly as long as was usual for Leon in the evenings. “Hey, it’s okay,” said Leon, ruffling Chris’ hair when Chris seemed disappointed. “We’ll be back tomorrow, kiddo.”

As Leon passed by D on the way out, he glanced over, his gaze suspicious. “What’s up with you today?” he asked, quietly enough that neither Chris nor Cynthia would hear him.

“What’s ‘up with me,’ detective?” D inquired, fixing Leon with the mildest of his stares and purposely playing dense.

“Yeah,” said Leon. “What’s up with you? I brought chocolates and everything, since I thought you’d be kind of expecting them after the surprise thing I told you yesterday.” He tried out a lopsided, typically Leon-ish grin.

D remained cool, unwilling to lose his composure or to admit to anything being wrong. As far as he knew, nothing was wrong. He had only a feeling to go by, a rare feeling that was not substantiated by any solid proof. “I assure you, there is nothing, as you put it, ‘up with me,’” D replied smoothly. “Perhaps the fact that you have nothing to suspect me of makes you suspicious, detective. Now I believe Ms. Berkeley is waiting for you outside.”

He shut the door in Leon’s face, disregarding Leon’s look of shocked surprise.

***

Leon went to bed early that night. Being happy tired him out, and being annoyed with D tired him out even more. Luckily (maybe) he was still sleeping alone, and he had no reason to stay up, unless he wanted to watch TV or read a magazine or something.

He lay on his back in bed, and then reached for the nightstand, almost knocking down the lamp in the process. He grabbed the pack of cigarettes he kept there and started going for his lighter, then thought better of it and flicked the cig he’d brought out into the garbage can. D didn’t like his smoking habit in general, and Cynthia, even though she was quieter about it, probably didn’t approve either. Anyway, hadn’t there been something about a guy who died smoking in bed recently? Lit himself on fire, or something. Leon shuddered and figured that now was as good a time as any to try quitting again.

He flopped over, making the bedsprings squeak, pulled his sheets up and then changed his mind and kicked them off. It was too warm for covers anyway.

Staring up at the ceiling, he went over his day, which had been mostly great, wonderful, fantastic. But there was something about it that was niggling at the back of his brain, something that had bothered him that he’d maybe only noticed on a subconscious level. His thoughts went to Chris first, but no, his baby brother had looked fine and healthy. Cynthia, then? No, not that either; she’d been her usual soft-spoken, smiling self all day.

Leon snorted and turned over again. Give it a rest, Orcot, he told himself sternly. You’re just trying to make up problems that aren’t there. It’s your usual relationship thing, remember? Christ, that’s the reason you can’t stay with a girl for more than a month.

To his credit, he managed to shut his mind up long enough that he started dozing. Only then did he realize what he’d been thinking of, what had been bothering him.

Not once while they were at the petshop, at least after the first two minutes, after Leon had introduced Cynthia to him, had D called him “My dear Detective,” shortening his title to plain old “Detective,” something he hadn’t done in a long time.

And then, after telling himself how ridiculous he was being, Leon went to sleep.

***

“So, the louse got himself a girlfriend,” said Tet-chan. “Wonder what’s wrong with her.”

“I’m sure there is nothing wrong with Ms. Berkeley,” said D. He was mending one of his cheongsams, using tiny stitches that would not show against the silk. Although his customers had never seen him performing such manual labor, as it were, and probably never would have guessed he was capable of it, working with the denizens of the petshop took its toll on D’s fine clothing. He didn’t mind doing a bit of sewing when necessary, especially to repair something that had been so beautifully crafted in the first place.

“Maybe someone’s out to eat the cop again.” Tet-chan sprawled on the couch in the place where Leon usually sat. “Someone besides me, I mean. Good riddance,” he added as an afterthought.

If Chris had been in the room, D would have reprimanded Tet-chan more harshly. As it was, he simply said, “Enough.”

“I’m just saying.” Tet-chan yawned. “Not like no one’s been out to get him before.”

D raised an eyebrow. “Indeed.”

Tet-chan was hardly rational when it came to Leon, but as D stitched the seam back into perfection, he began to muse on the totetsu’s words. Leon did seem to attract a large number of otherworldly admirers, if they could be called such, and the fault for that rested directly on D’s shoulders. He concluded that he ought to check into Ms. Berkeley’s background, just in case there was anything untoward to be found there.

It was only to be safe, but D felt an almost human surge of satisfaction while thinking that Leon’s girlfriend was, perhaps, not all that she seemed… or more than she seemed.

Then the thread he was working with tangled for the third time, and D had to expend all of his thought undoing the tiny knots in the silk.

***

Leon felt a twinge of uneasiness as he and Cynthia approached the petshop for the second time in as many days. He brushed the feeling off, of course. Hell, he left his younger brother in the place, didn’t he? That had to make D… well… trustworthy, right? Just because there happened to be a number of mysterious deaths connected with the shop and probably just as many unexplained disappearances, just because Leon had encountered some (okay, a crapload) of weird shit there, just because D was an obnoxious bastard and had been acting kind of cold toward him the other day, didn’t mean that the place wasn’t safe.

For some reason, Leon’s logic just didn’t work in connection with the petshop or D, apparently.

He’d brought some candied fruits and some chocolates in a second attempt to warm D up a little. D took them readily enough, and Leon saw that look in his eyes, he saw it, that near-orgasmic blissed-out look D always got when faced with sugary goods. But D managed to keep up his new, cool front, thanking Leon calmly and stowing the candies away in some back room. There was another thing: D had always eaten the candy Leon brought him as soon as he could rip the paper off the box, unless there was a customer around.

But D had stubbornly persisted in giving him the cold shoulder. The hell of it was, no one else could tell that D was being cold, except maybe for Chris. D was… nice, to his customers. Yeah, that was the problem. D wasn’t nice to Leon. He just wasn’t, and when he was, it wasn’t this professional hello-I’m-a-godlike-being-named-Count-D sort of nice. It was real.

D wouldn’t behave that way anymore, even with the sweets. He also wouldn’t fight with Leon, even when Leon deliberately provoked him. Leon knew that he wasn’t paying enough attention to Cynthia and Chris, but he put it down to his detective’s mind trying to work out a new case. And boy, was D ever a case and a half, maybe more.

“So, Ms. Berkeley,” said D pleasantly. He’d had tea ready for them. Leon drank all of his, just to spite D, and almost choked when he discovered that the tea did not, in fact, have any sugar at all. “What do you do for a living?”

“I work for a real estate company,” Cynthia replied. “I fill out a lot of the paperwork for land sales.” She smiled. “It’s not very exciting to talk about.”

“Hey, neither’s being a cop,” Leon chimed in, looking away from D for the first time in fifteen minutes. “We mostly file paperwork, you know. It’s not all fun and games and car chases.”

“So, you live on your own?” D asked, apparently ignoring Leon’s comment, for his eyes were still focused on Cynthia.

“I do,” she said, nodding. “An apartment near the office. It’s not big, but big enough for one person, definitely.”

“Ah, I see.” D’s gaze was hypnotic, even when Leon wasn’t on the receiving end of it. “It can be lonely, living without company.”

Cynthia nodded again, slightly wistful. “It can be. But Leon takes me out almost every night now, which is nice. It helps.” She smiled radiantly at him. Leon grinned distractedly at her, putting an arm around her waist.

D smiled too. “Perhaps you would be interested in a companion, something small enough to keep in an apartment. I’m sure that you can find something that would be to your-”

“No, no, she’s fine,” Leon interrupted quickly. “Her apartment doesn’t allow any pets in it.”

“Well, no dogs or cats, of course, but a smaller animal might be all right,” said Cynthia, who had no idea what she would be letting herself in for.

“Of course,” said D, with a wave of his hand that seemed to encompass the entire shop, displaying its contents, where people could find just the right thing, either that or the thing that would eat them the quickest.

“No, not of course,” said Leon stubbornly. “I mean, you should think about it for awhile, okay? Don’t rush into this thing.”

Cynthia agreed, thank god, but while she wasn’t looking, D gave Leon a glare that was dripping with metaphorical poison.

Leon was almost grateful. It was the first sign D had shown that he was less than the perfect and gracious host. Leon had begun to wonder if he’d been hallucinating all their fights, or what. With this shop, you never knew.

***

The more he saw of Cynthia, the more D was convinced that there was nothing peculiar whatsoever about her, and the more resolved he became to find something wrong.

“Not a vampire, then,” D murmured to himself, frustrated as he leafed through one of his grandfather’s old, dusty books, one of the many that their family had collected throughout the ages. This one was from the Middle Ages and so obviously wildly inaccurate, but even wildly inaccurate things (Leon Orcot, for instance) could hold some grain of truth. “Perhaps one of the elder ones… but why would they go to such trouble?”

Count, are you sure you’re okay? Chris asked anxiously, his brows furrowed with worry.

D glanced up from his book and smiled reassuringly at the boy. “I’m fine, Chris. I’m doing some research, that’s all, and the subject matter is… challenging.”

Chris’ face cleared. Oh, okay. He gave D one of the enchanting smiles found only in children of any species, and then headed off to the back of the store with Pon-chan to play with the puppies.

The interruption didn’t matter, because the book hadn’t offered any useful information anyway. D set it aside, musing that perhaps calling on his own experience would be more effective. If someone was after Detective Orcot, that person probably knew D and was only after Leon because of where Leon spent his afternoons. On the other hand, police officers made their own enemies often enough.

“Face it, Count. She’s just a regular old human.” Tet-chan, who’d been lounging underneath the sofa, chose that moment to speak up. “I smelled her. I know. Nice, kind of a pushover when it comes to guys and kids, good at making consomme.”

D raised an eyebrow at that.

Tet-chan shrugged. “Smelled it on her. It’s hard to be a world-famous chef without recognizing fancy French foods by scent.”

“Hm, yes.” One of the cats had jumped onto the couch beside him, purring, and D absently stroked her hair. She sighed and curled up next to him.

“I think you should quit trying to figure out what she is, and start trying to figure out why you even care,” said Tet-chan. “So the detective has a girlfriend. So what? Means he’s not going after you anymore, right?”

“Yes,” said D softly. “That is true.”

In that moment Tet-chan gave D a look of complete and utter horror. Q-chan chirped and circled D’s head, trying to gain his attention. D did not notice, because he was too busy denying certain realizations which, in retrospect, should have been obvious all along.

For the first (or possibly second, or third) time in his exceptionally long life, Count D had missed something crucial.

***

D and Leon had been on barely-cordial terms for weeks before the explosion came. In hindsight, Leon was surprised they’d lasted that long. No one else would believe him that D was a temperamental son of a bitch, but he sure as hell was, and Leon wasn’t much better. Maybe worse, to tell the truth.

But Leon could hardly be expected to control himself under the circumstances. Every time, every single fucking time he brought Cynthia to the petshop, D wore that thin layer of false courtesy, and every single time. Leon had finally realized why.

D saw Cynthia as a customer and nothing more.

It was so obvious, Leon couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed it before. D’s sneaky little offers to sell Cynthia something, that façade of his, that fucking attitude that made Leon want to yell and somehow rip that condescending look right off of D’s face. If he’d been thinking straighter, Leon might have noted that he was angrier about D’s behavior toward him than he was at the thought of Cynthia with one of those crazy pets… or maybe he wouldn’t have noted that at all, thinking straight or no. He also might have noted that he was almost, unreasonably and stupidly, angry with himself and with Cynthia for causing this change in D.

So Leon went down to the petshop on his own, one of the days when Chris was off visiting their aunt and uncle for the weekend. Thank god he was, too, or else he probably would have heard some things that Leon definitely wouldn’t have meant to say in front of him.

Leon stormed through the door, banging it behind him. D glanced up from the chair where he was sitting, and stood in one graceful movement. “Detective, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t destroy my shop.” His gaze moved to the space behind Leon. “No Ms. Berkeley with you today, I see.”

“Drop the fucking act!” Leon barked. “I don’t know why the fuck I have some kind of special protection around here and Cynthia doesn’t, but you can fucking stop treating her like one of your fucking customers!”

D wore his face of studious calm that probably hid a tempest behind it. “I don’t see why you should have such a strenuous objection to Ms. Berkeley’s possession of a pet. She seems perfectly amenable to the idea, when you’re not discouraging her in every possible way.”

“Is that what it is, then?” Leon demanded. “You want to sell her one of your goddamn man-eating pets? That’s why you always act like there’s a customer in the store when she’s around, isn’t it! You just want to, want to let one of those things rip her apart, like that guy with the fish! Jesus, D, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“I can assure you that I have no such intentions with regards to Ms. Berkeley,” said D flatly. At least he was showing some emotions now and not just that fake-pleasant customer face, although Leon was too worked up to feel too good about it. “I simply can’t see the two of you having a future together, and perhaps Ms. Berkeley would appreciate the company of a pet once you leave her for one of those photographic prostitutes in those magazines of yours.”

Leon stepped forward, menacing but not really, because he already knew he couldn’t physically assault D, or even touch him, without getting a mean set of scratches for his trouble. “For all you know, maybe she’s the one,” Leon said, pissed that D would assume stupid things, just because Leon hadn’t had much luck with women in the past. “Maybe Cynthia and I are gonna get married and live happily ever after! Where the fuck do you get off saying that we won’t, huh?”

Language, Detective Orcot!” D said, his tone sharp and more shrill than it normally was. D sounded more like an ill-tempered housewife than a, well, whatever he was. Chinese mafia boss or something, most likely, Leon thought sourly. “Yes, perhaps Ms. Berkeley is the one for you. After all, she’ll let you do anything you like, no matter her thoughts on the subject.”

“Cynthia doesn’t care if I smoke or swear or whatever,” Leon said hotly. Somehow he’d gotten right up in D’s face, his fingers just itching to grab the front of that dress-thing. D’s claws hadn’t come out yet, though D had drawn himself up so that he could stare Leon more directly in the eyes. “She likes me for who I am, and if you can’t believe that, that’s your fucking problem!”

“Oh, yes, I’m sure she doesn’t mind your filthy habits,” D snapped back. “Congratulations, Detective. You’ve finally found a woman quiet and docile enough that she won’t reprimand you even when you’re being utterly disgusting.”

“Jesus Christ! You’re the only one who’s ever cared so much about-” Leon stopped. His eyes widened and he shook his head, denying whatever conclusion he’d just come to. “Jesus Christ,” he said, more softly than he’d meant to. “D, you’re not…

D drew in a quick breath. Leon saw it, just a brief parting of those deep red lips and then a quick dart of a tongue over them, and dammit, Leon suddenly realized that he was too close. “Detective Orcot-”

Leon couldn’t stop talking, even though he knew he should. “…jealous, or something.” He studied D’s face, since he couldn’t bring himself to look away or to move, either. “Are you?” he finished weakly. But he’d already seen the truth in D’s eyes, those eyes that were so strange and so good at hiding everything except when it came to Leon Orcot.

“We’re finished here, Detective,” D said, colder than he’d ever been with Leon before. He pushed Leon forcibly away and swept toward the door to the back corridor of the shop.

“But-”

There was the click of the hall door closing.

“Fuck,” Leon said, half to himself. D did not correct him, because he had already gone.

There was a thread hanging off of Leon's jacket as he left the petshop. He picked at it all the way down the sidewalk, finally growing impatient and jerking the stupid thing. The jacket ripped neatly along the seam. "Fuck!" Leon repeated, much more loudly, and the word seemed to encompass everything he was feeling pretty perfectly.

***

Leon didn’t stop coming to the petshop, of course; evidently he hadn’t even thought of removing Chris from D’s care, and Chris probably wouldn’t have gone anyway. Nor did Leon ever bring Cynthia with him again, which was probably wise.

Count, are you mad at my brother? Chris asked one day, eyes downcast. Then he looked up, his eyes fairly brimming with naïve anxiety. I know he still swears and smokes and everything, but…

D gave Chris a smile that was less reassuring than he’d intended it to be. “No, I’m not angry with your brother, Christopher.”

“Yeah right you’re not,” Tet-chan muttered from his place halfway beneath the sofa. “What?” he added, when D gave him a stern glance and Chris’ brows furrowed even more. “Kid’s got a right to know the truth, doesn’t he?”

“The truth is that Leon is not pleased with me right now,” D replied, giving Tet-chan another look.

But you’re not… not pleased with him? Chris asked.

“No, Chris, I’m not.” D didn’t mention that while he was not displeased with Leon Orcot, he did think that Leon was behaving like a perfect idiot. He suspected that would do nothing to help Chris’ feelings on the subject.

Though Leon had not actually ceased visiting (most likely because then he would have been avoiding his younger brother as well as D), he did not seem altogether there while he was at the petshop. He seemed to have forgotten things he’d known for ages, occasionally reaching out to pet Tet-chan and invariably receiving a nasty snap of the teeth in response. Even Tet-chan, however, had noticed the change and never caught Leon’s fingers, though he could easily have bitten the entire hand clean off.

“No challenge this way,” Tet-chan said, and shrugged, whenever Chris asked him about it.

D found himself watching Leon all-too-frequently when Leon was in his presence. Before, he’d seen Leon as an amusement, one of the few humans clever or willfully stubborn enough to resist the charms of the shop. He could have pushed Leon over the edge, could have tempted him too strongly, but hadn’t, because watching Leon rebel was more interesting than watching Leon succumb.

Now, though, D saw that it would take much, much less to push Leon into buying something from the shop. All he would have to do was to ask, and Leon would accept, thus sealing his own fate. One part of D’s mind urged him to fulfill his duty, to use the human’s weakness and to let the petshop make of it what it would. The other part of D’s mind…

…was as unhelpful as it had ever been. D thought with only a touch of bitterness that he now knew how the Shuuko felt, a rational being having to deal with a sentimental and an angry side all in one body, never able to reconcile the three points of view. Granted, in this case he had only two options available to him: either he could do what he had been taught, what he had been designed for, or he could let some decidedly human feelings overtake him and override his sense of duty.

D was irrationally angry with Leon for forcing him to make such a choice.

“You know,” said Pon-chan one day, while Chris was off playing with Philippe and she had some time to curl up with her head in D’s lap. “Leon doesn’t smell like that woman anymore.”

“Hm.” There were a thousand possible reasons for that change. D would not even let himself consider most of them. Leon had probably taken to changing clothes before coming to the shop, showering, perhaps, and removing most foreign smells from himself. Pon-chan’s senses were keen, but not so keen that she could smell such faint traces of a certain human’s scent. If Tet-chan had been the one to inform him of this, then D would not have been able to question it.

As it was, he continued questioning it, and himself, wavering between two equally appealing yet unappealing choices.

That was, of course, until Leon decided to simplify things for him.

***

Leon wasn’t known for wavering between options. He was known for making up his mind and charging into whatever he’d chosen without a second thought. Granted, yeah, sometimes he had second thoughts when it was too late to reverse his decision, but being decisive was a good thing anyway, right? Had to be.

The evening he broke up with Cynthia, though, he hadn’t even thought about it beforehand. He cursed himself for being an idiot even now. What had he told her again? That night had been a blur. She’d come back to his apartment for only the second time and they’d been kissing, her kisses light and almost hesitant just like everything about her, and then Leon had seen a flash of pale skin and dark hair and a smirk, heard a voice yelling at him, practically shrieking at him in his head about those disgusting posters and that horrible mess in the bedroom, and Leon had to pull away from her.

It’s not you, it’s me. Oh shit, yeah, that was what he’d said all right, or part of it. He was so stupid. And yet, even though he knew he was a moron, he had no intention of trying to get her back. That was part of his decisive nature, too. Once it was done, it was done, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to go back on his resolve.

Plus, at some point he had realized that Cynthia wasn’t the one, and that the one was maybe, just maybe, someone else entirely.

Which was why Leon marched down to the petshop that day with a peculiar sort of confidence he hadn’t felt since he and D had fought. Chris answered the door with that raccoon, evidently expecting him. “Hey, Chris,” said Leon, hugging his brother. “Listen, could you run down to the store on the corner and get me one of those candy bars they have down there?”

Chris looked at him, puzzled. But you never liked those when the Count had them before.

“Yeah, I, uh.” Leon rubbed the back of his neck the way he tended to do when he was uncomfortable. “I have a taste for them today, I guess. You can take the raccoon thing with you, right?”

Oh. Of course. Chris blinked up at him. Leon thought at first that he was going to insist that the raccoon was actually a kid again, but then Chris said, If you wanted to talk to the Count alone, you could have just asked. I’ll stay down there for a while, okay? Mr. Wu is nice. He sometimes gives us candy for free. He grinned up at Leon, and then turned and started walking for the store.

“Um.” Leon stared after him as Chris headed down the sidewalk. “Wow.” Kids these days. They always knew more than you gave them credit for. Leon was both proud and bemused, and he pushed the shop’s door open. There were no customers in there at this time of day, or at least there generally weren’t, and today was no exception.

“Ah. Detective Orcot,” said D, coming out from the shadows in that way that had become less creepy and more interesting over time. Or, well, was more interesting today, anyway. “If you-”

“D, are you a fucking idiot?” Leon asked.

D stared. “Detective Orcot, what on earth are you talking about?”

“You know perfectly well what I’m talking about.” Leon glared, his primary fallback when he didn’t know what else to do. “You could have told me that you were… whatever.”

“Whatever? How eloquent.” D started for the kitchen. “Unless you’d care for some tea, I’m afraid I can’t help you, Detective.”

Leon grimaced. “Not if it’s that shit you gave me before. Just leave the sugar out, would you?” He followed D into the kitchen, something he’d never done before. He had the vague and old-fashioned idea that food preparation areas sort of belonged to whoever worked in them most frequently, and where he might not have hesitated to go into a private bedroom, thoughts of a kitchen made him pause. This time he wasn’t going to let that deter him.

Of course, the goat-tiger-homicidal maniac thing tried to deter him even more than manners would have. It growled, the only warning he had before it lunged at him and latched onto his ankle. “Get off!” Leon shouted down at it, shaking his leg violently. While he was off-balance, that stupid bat-rabbit of D’s flew at his face, chattering shrilly. He batted at it and kicked at the goat-tiger at the same time. “D, get your fucking crazy homicidal things away from me!”

And D, shockingly enough, turned back, hesitated, and then commanded, “Q-chan! Tet-chan, leave him alone.”

The bat-rabbit desisted immediately, though it gave Leon a look that he didn’t quite like, especially when it came from a flying rodent. Tet-chan hung on for a moment longer and then parted from Leon’s leg with a low growl, a promise of worse to come if Leon misbehaved. “Yeah, same to you,” Leon muttered. Then he rushed after D, who had gone into the kitchen area to fix tea or whatever he was doing. “Look, D-”

“I would suggest you think carefully before you speak, Detective,” said D.

“Oh yeah,” said Leon sarcastically. “Just like I always think carefully before I do stuff. Just like I thought carefully before I broke up with Cynthia, just like-”

“What?” D asked. Leon should have been congratulating himself; D was hardly ever startled by anything, and Leon had managed it an awful lot in the recent past. “Well. I don’t see how that is any of my business.”

“Yeah, it is, because it’s your fault I broke up with her,” said Leon. “And before you say it, yes I’m sure it went that way and not the other way around. Jeez

D’s lips actually curved into a slight smile. “I would never dare imply such a thing, my dear Detective.”

Was that it then? Leon wondered. Things were going to go back to the way they’d been, just like that? Sure, it was going to take a little more effort on both of their parts, but D had already visibly relaxed. No, Leon decided fiercely, that wasn’t going to be it. “Nuh-uh,” he said, shaking his head. “Not good enough.”

“No?” One of D’s eyebrows arched. “You require further assurance?”

“No, no,” said Leon, exasperated. He walked over to stand right beside D at the counter. If he reached out, he’d be able to touch the soft, smooth silk of D’s dress (or cheongsam, or whatever) with the back of his hand. “Look, I said it was your fault, right?”

“You did, yes.”

“So there’s no way I’m letting you just, just get out of it so easy,” said Leon firmly. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but it was going to be decisive, because that was the way he was. Decisive. Yeah.

“I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about,” D told him, and picked up a teacup that didn’t seem to have anything in it.

“Look,” said Leon, and then, because he was a cop and way better at doing than at speaking, “Look,” again. Then he gave up speaking altogether and took the old school route to show what he meant. He leaned in and kissed D, really fast, possibly on the lips and possibly just to the side of them, Leon wasn’t sure.

"I brought chocolates, too," Leon offered weakly, when D didn't say anything and didn't seem to react. He stuck his hand into his jacket pocket, meaning to bring them out and maybe placate D enough that D wouldn't go into a murderous rage or anything.

“What-” And then, unexpectedly, D grabbed hold of the front of his shirt so fast that Leon didn’t see him move. D dragged Leon down into a longer kiss, pressing himself against Leon, and Leon finally got to touch that gorgeous soft silk without feeling too bad about it. D wasn’t at all hesitant; in fact, he was quite skilled. It was like kissing satin with needles in it or something like that, Leon’s brain wasn’t too good with analogies at the moment.

When D drew back, Leon let out a little sound of loss and tried pulling him back in. D shook his head wordlessly, and Leon was just thinking, oh boy, here we go again, when something bit his ear hard. “Ow!” Leon yelled, clapping a hand to the wounded ear. “Shit!” Q-chan fluttered around his head, batting at him and swooping in for, presumably, another bite. “D, call this thing off!”

“Q-chan,” D reprimanded, but Leon could hear the chuckle in his voice. The bat-rabbit wouldn’t let up, though, and D wasn’t being very helpful, setting the teacup delicately on the counter. Leon finally had to grab the thing and plop it on the counter beside the cup, hoping it would stay there. In order to aid it in staying put, Leon set it down a bit harder than strictly necessary.

Despite his bleeding ear and the stunned but still-furious rodent on the counter, Leon felt himself starting to grin. “So,” he said conversationally. “You were jealous.”

“I was not,” said D primly, and patted Q-chan comfortingly on the head.

“The hell you weren’t,” said Leon, and put his arms around D’s waist and pulled him close, feeling the silk beneath his palms, stroking through D’s hair to find out how silky that was, too.

So there were things to figure out, okay. Like how he could get out of this one without announcing to the world that he was gay, and how to tell Chris that he wasn’t dating a woman this time, and how D was going to react when they hadn’t just made up and weren't real happy with each other, which would inevitably happen, and how he could avoid being eaten by the carnivorous goat that had just come stalking into the kitchen with a dangerous look on its face.

But that shit could wait for a minute while he kissed D again.

***

“You know, there was nothing wrong with Ms. Berkeley,” D murmured against Leon’s lips, reveling in the sensation rather more than he should have.

“Hm?” Leon pulled back a couple centimeters. “What would’ve been wrong with her?”

“Nothing,” said D, reveling also in being obscure and in the blank look on Leon’s face. “Watch your feet,” he added mysteriously.

As the totetsu attacked Leon’s ankles once more, D smiled to himself. Q-chan had fluttered back into the air and was now hovering around D’s head, scolding and chattering. “Hush, Q-chan,” said D, and Q-chan flew sulkily into the other room, sparing D a reproachful glance as it went.

Watching Leon fend Tet-chan off with skill acquired through experience, D had the inexplicable feeling that everything would be fine after all.
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